The same thing happens to me several times every year come spring and summer. I’ll sidle into an establishment with a limited craft beer selection and have to make A Hard Choice. Sure, most places have at least a Sam Adams tap nowadays, and usually that’s the old standby in such situations.
Well, as long as it’s Boston Lager.
Sometimes, though, the establishment in question only carries the seasonal Sam offerings. And therein lies the problem, at least for me.
I just don’t like Sam Adams Summer Ale.
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t like it. No, no, no. I very much hope you enjoy it. But to my palate, there’s something about he concoction of lemons, wheat, and grains of paradise that leaves my tongue and throat feeling like they’re coated in hair, and soury-tasting hairs at that.
I know, sounds tasty, right?
So, what do I do when I find myself in a Summer Ale situation and no other craft offerings are available? Do I swallow (my rather prodigious) craft beer-drinker pride? No, I look around around for a familiar 3-sided white handle emblazoned in blue.
Yes, I look for Blue Moon. There, I said it.
I always feel a little guilty about it, too. You know, because Blue Moon is a Coors…err, well, MillerCoors subsidiary. And I think that means that as a craft beer-lover, I’m not supposed to like Blue Moon. You, know because it’s from The Man. And because it’s from The Man, it’s not considered real craft beer, I guess.
But here’s the thing: it seems like craft to me. For all the research I’ve been able to do on Blue Moon (again, I’m pretty lazy and not really a journalist of any stripe, so my “research” boils down to an 5-minute session of Googling), it seems to me that the company—the Blue Moon Brewing Company, that is, not the Mega-Industrial-Global-Brew-Corp parent company—puts their attention on brewing before marketing. They seem to use quality ingredients rather than corner-cutting with cheap adjuncts, and the truth is, I believe I can taste that in the final product.
Well, as long as the bartender doesn’t mess things up with an unnecessary orange slice. But I’ve already beaten that horse pretty solidly.
Either way, people are fond of saying that Blue Moon isn’t a real craft beer. And I suppose if we’re determined to define “craft” based on an arbitrary measure like the number of barrels produced annually, it probably doesn’t qualify. But I’ve decided I’m sticking to my own definition here; defining something as “craft” based on volume is kind of dumb.
Don’t believe me? Look, I can make a half dozen grey, lifeless ceramic ashtrays from a few blocks of kindergarten clay using an old shirt as apron, but that certainly doesn’t mean I crafted anything.
To me, craft beer is one brewed with a focus on the end result, using quality ingredients and (mostly) traditional processes.
In other words, I’m not going to let myself be prejudiced anymore about any beer. For months now I’ve been casting a weary eye at every Goose Island 6-pack I see, certain that those bottles held a travesty of corporate-megabrewing swill intended to pilfer some unsuspecting former Goose aficionado out of his or her $9. But you know, what? Every Goose I’ve had since A…B…, A…B…, um, that big conglomerate bought the company has been as tasty as the years before.
Now, obviously, there are always going to be questions of the marketing leverage of giant corporations that by and large controls distributors. I get that. The fight for shelf space will rage for as long as the three-tier system plague us. But that’s a different post altogether.
For now, when it comes to individual brews, I’m going to let my palette make the decisions about what I like and don’t like, not my preconceptions.
And I’m not going to feel guilty about it.